The Archbishop of Toronto, His Eminence Thomas Card. Collins has said something that I have been hammering at for years. HERE
It is NOT obligatory to receive Communion at Mass.
Also, people who may not receive Communion are STILL OBLIGED to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of precept.
The Cardinal said:
Many people who are divorced, and who are not free to marry, do enter into a second marriage. There are various reasons that can lead to this, and their fellow parishioners should not occupy themselves speculating about them. [But they will. This is the nature of scandal, I'm afraid.] Catholics in that tragic situation [His Eminence doesn't candy coat it.] can be involved in many ways in the life of the community, but they may not receive the sacraments, such as Holy Communion, since whatever their personal disposition is or the reasons for their situation, known perhaps only to God, they are continuing in a way of life which is objectively against the clear command of Jesus. [Objectively... that is manifestly... openly... in way that is known.] That is the point. The point is not that they have committed a sin; [Well... it kind of is... no?] the mercy of God is abundantly granted to all sinners. [When they repent and amend.] Murder, adultery, and any other sins, no matter how serious, are forgiven by Jesus, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the forgiven sinner receives communion. The issue in the matter of divorce and remarriage is one’s conscious decision (for whatever reason) to persist in a continuing situation of disconnection from the command of Jesus. Although it would not be right for them to receive the sacraments, we need to find better ways to reach out to people in this situation, to offer them loving assistance.
[NB] One thing that would help would be if all of us realized that receiving communion is not obligatory at Mass. [YES YES YES! Do I hear an "Amen!"?] There are many reasons why a Christian might choose not to receive communion. If there were less pressure for everyone to receive communion, it would be some help to those who are not in a position to do so. [THEREFORE... let us restore a longer Eucharistic fast (at least 3 hours) and let us phase out row by row Communion.]
Often, people in this situation decide no longer to continue as members of the Catholic community, as they are not able to receive sacramental communion at Mass, even though they can experience a kind of spiritual communion through prayerful adoration, although abstaining for good reason from receiving communion; [A good option, though it remains unclear how one who has not confessed her sins and received absolution can receive more than certain prevenient actual graces. But hey! That's a lot!] that, for a Catholic can be a truly penitential act. It is a great tragedy if they leave the Church. It is likely that they, and their children, and their descendants, will become disconnected from the source of life in Christ that is found in the Church. We need to think of what we can do to reach out to people in this situation, in a loving and effective way. But as we do so, we also need to be attentive to the command of Christ, and the necessity of not undermining the sanctity of marriage, with even more dire consequences for all, especially in a world in which the stability of marriage is already tragically compromised. If we proclaim in actions, even though not in words, that the marriage covenant is not really what Jesus says it is, then that offers short term comfort at the cost of long term suffering. As the sanctity of the marriage covenant is progressively weakened, it will ultimately be the children who will suffer most. [Well said.]
So although fidelity to the teaching of Christ on the indissolubility of marriage is not open to change, [Not. Open. To. Change.] there may be things that we can change to assist our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in this difficult and painful situation. Real assistance can be given through improvements in the way the Church examines the validity of marriages, and through efforts to give spiritual support to Catholics who are divorced and remarried, encouraging them to be engaged in their parish as much as they can, and offering them ways of prayer appropriate to their situation. We need to consider what the Church community can do to assist the couple with their children, often living in combined family situations. But over-riding the explicit teaching of Jesus on the unbreakable nature of marriage is not an option. Nobody has the authority to do that.
Read the rest there.
Fr. Z kudos to Card. Collins.